NZ websites' privacy policies 'lip service'

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 14:07 14/08/2013
Marie Shroff
PRIVATE EYES: New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff.

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Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff says she is disappointed that almost a third of New Zealand websites surveyed as part of an "international sweep" did not set out their organisation's privacy policy.

The focus of those that did was on legally protecting themselves "and not on providing information about consumer rights", she said.

Three hundred and ninety-three New Zealand websites were surveyed in May as part of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network's "internet privacy sweep".

Of these, 125 displayed no privacy policy.

Shroff said 251 concerns were detected with the privacy statements that were online, all relating to how easy they were to find, their relevance or "readability", or the lack of a person to contact.

Website operators needed to be "less defensive" and shift their emphasis to informing consumers, she said.

"Websites and apps that collect people's personal information could do much better in telling people that they are doing it, why they are doing it and how securely the information will be held," she said.

Many of the websites set out the privacy policy of the site and not the organisation as a whole, being "more lip service than reality", a report produced for Shroff said.

The report said it was common to find organisations claiming that by visiting a website consumers had agreed to any uses of their information set out in their policy.

Business New Zealand said it could not express a view on whether the criticism was valid as it had not surveyed its members on their practices.

The websites chosen for the survey were not selected at random but targeted well-used websites run by organisations such as schools, clubs, banks, government agencies, telecommunications firms and media companies.

Few were "great examples", spokeswoman Annabel Fordham said.

Shroff said she would focus first on improving the practices of schools, clubs, associations, lawyers and retail businesses.

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